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The Big Answer


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Discipline Without Distress

a book by Judy Arnall

(our site's book review)

Arnall uses natural consequences and not logical consequences in her Discipline Without Distress method. Her book has quite a bit of careless, clumsy writing, but on the plus side, it follows P.E.T. methods closely and has good info on specific discipline challenges like cybersafety, netiquette, and cyberbullying.

She wisely tunes into the issues today’s mothers face by advocating that moms start or join babysitting co-ops. Of course, MCs (Microcommunities Why Register for an MC?) are a much better solution but co-ops are a great idea if you are not in an MC yet. MCs are much more convenient for everyone, give kids much more nurturing care, do not require the expense of gas or time when driving around town to get kid(s) and sitter(s) together or calling around to a long list of mothers to see who can schedule time to sit. Additionally, MCs utilize PSBs (Personal Status Boards) to allow nearly instant status checks of all members for the ultimate in communication efficiency. Co-ops are a great idea for parents, but they do not allow kids to choose caregivers, which is wonderful for their self-actualization and autonomy development.

Registering for MC search and match
Registering for MC search and match

Arnall says, about babysitting co-ops, that “perhaps the most compelling advantage is that the social and support network of similar aged children and parents is wonderful to have in this day of isolated nuclear families.” Very true, but much MORE true in an MC.

What remained when most social tasks were exteriorized in the 1950s was the isolated ‘nuclear family,’ held together less by the functions its members performed as a unit than by fragile psychological bonds that are all too easily snapped
What remained when most social tasks were exteriorized in the 1950s was the isolated ‘nuclear family,’ held together less by the functions its members performed as a unit than by fragile psychological bonds that are all too easily snapped

In her parenting method, parental control is used only protectively, since the goal is to influence, not control. Win-win conflict resolution is supported, and so is parents making sure to schedule time for themselves to fill their own needs. A parent who thinks only of her kids does neither any favors—she’ll end up living through them and pressuring them to do things she’ll enjoy vicariously. This is very bad for kids.

Arnall tells us about the 3 types of innate temperament in children, which includes the easy-going or low-keyed child—40 percent of children are of this type; the slow-to-warm child—15 percent of children are of this type; and the spirited or high-need child—10 to 15 percent of children are of this type. She gives lots of info about how to deal with these temperaments.

She says that kids should deal with decorating and cleaning their rooms however and whenever they like, except that food is to stay out of rooms due to sanitation. She believes that kids should share family and household duties, such as dishwasher emptying, garbage take-out, meal cleanup, vacuuming common areas, cleaning bathrooms, and toy cleanup. She thinks that control and choice are likely to motivate kids to do chores, and parents working alongside their kids is a good motivator. She uses signup boards where chores are listed and it’s first come first served for who gets what chores. They can get them done when they want, during the week.

Kids should deal with decorating and cleaning their rooms however and whenever they like
Kids should deal with decorating and cleaning their rooms however and whenever they like

Consequences: “If a child spills a drink because she was careless pouring, she wipes up the mess.” No further consequence is needed. We consider that a nonpunitive enough consequence that we don’t categorize Arnall as a logical consequence user since it seems like this consequence is not imposed but suggested via influence, not parental power. It’s more of a natural “solution consequence” than a logical consequence—almost a form of natural consequence. She doesn’t believe in consequences as punishments, but only as solutions. She shows a chart where she clearly illustrates the difference between the two.

How is her use of redirection, distraction, substitution and problem-solving as consequences for rule breaking any different than P.E.T., Aware Parenting, Connection Parenting, Nonviolent Communication (N.V.C.), and Alfie Kohn's Unconditional Parenting using redirection, distraction, substitution, changing the environment, and problem-solving to avoid unwanted behavior? And yet none of these parenting methods use logical consequences. Moreover, none of them feel they are using “consequences” at all, although clearly the redirection, distraction, substitution, changing the environment, and problem-solving they use ARE consequences of the unwanted behavior. Arnall calling things consequences that other parenting methods do NOT refer to as consequences is simply a difference in semantics, not parenting methods.

A spilled drink is a problem and a kid getting taught to solve this problem by wiping up feels empowered
A spilled drink is a problem and a kid getting taught to solve this problem by wiping up feels empowered

The spilled drink is a problem and a kid getting taught to solve this problem by wiping up feels empowered, not punished, if it’s handled correctly. That is why she says “when used properly, non-punitive consequences teach children appropriate behavior in a positive way,” and she illustrates “used properly” in this book by telling us that “if your child thinks it's a punishment, rather than a way to make amends or solve the problem, then it probably is a punishment,” which then leads us to realize that if the child doesn’t think it is a punishment, the consequence is being used properly, but if he thinks it’s a punishment, this defines punitive consequences which are consequences NOT being “used properly.”